Ministers have pledged £9m for the tourism sector to help counter the “severe economic impact” caused by the Omicron variant.
Tourism minister Ivan McKee said the cash will help the industry survive what is “clearly an especially tough winter period”.
The funding comes after restrictions imposed by the Scottish Government resulted in many of the country’s Hogmanay celebrations – which traditionally attract visitors from across the world – being cancelled.
Tourism body VisitScotland will distribute the cash, with bosses pledging to get the money out to businesses “as quickly as possible”.
The money includes £6m from a £375m business support package already announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, as well as £3m that has been “repurposed” from the first phase of the Tourism Recovery Programme.
It will be split between affected businesses across the tourism sector, with coach operators, day tour operators, hostels, inbound tour operators and visitor attractions, all eligible for help.
However, the tourism minister was realistic and acknowledged the funding will not “cover all losses” – as he promised the Scottish Government will continue to lobby Westminster for more support.
McKee said: “We recognise that the public health measures necessary to limit the spread of Omicron have had a severe economic impact, especially for affected businesses in the hard hit tourism sector.
“We have now allocated up to £9m to help ease the impacts of the pandemic on Scotland’s world-class tourism sector and ensure that affected businesses can survive what is clearly an especially tough winter period and be ready to trade fully in the spring and summer months.
“We know this won’t cover all losses and will continue to press the UK Government for more comprehensive support.”
VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead said: “Scotland’s valuable tourism industry is still facing significant challenges posed by the pandemic.
“This funding will provide crucial support to businesses affected by the necessary steps taken to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant.
“We recognise that many businesses are struggling, and we are working to ensure that those eligible can access this funding as simply and as quickly as possible – further details on this will be shared next week.”
The Scottish Government said that since the start of the pandemic, VisitScotland has delivered more than £46.7m of government support directly to affected parts of the tourism sector.
Joss Croft, chief executive of trade association UKinbound, responded: “We’re very pleased that the Scottish Government has recognised the devastating impact Omicron is having on the tourism industry and its supply chain, and is rolling out an additional £9m financial package.
“In stark contrast, Westminster continues to leave the inbound tourism industry out in the cold, ignoring the crippling impact of international restrictions on inbound tour operators and the need for tailored financial support, which threatens the recovery of the UK’s fifth largest export industry.”
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